3 Days in the Northeast Corner of Yellowstone
Pebble Creek to Slough Creek - A blog post about backpacking in the northeast corner of Yellowstone
It’s official, Yellowstone Guidelines backpacking season is underway. Our first trip of the summer consisted of the Yellowstone classic Bliss Pass. We started at the Warm Creek trailhead and eventually made our way out to Slough Creek where our cars were waiting for us. There were four participants on this trip and our guide was the fifth.
Why start the backpacking season so late you may ask. Some years we have a lot of snow in the northern Rockies, which causes our streams to swell. We must wait for the runoff to slow so we may safely cross these streams, and many of our trips include fording some a river or stream of some sort. We ended up fording Pebble Creek three times on this trip.
The trip started by meeting each other at Mammoth Hot Springs where we sorted thru our backpacks to see which gear we had doubles of and leave that behind. When backpacking for long distances you always want to make sure all of your ounces count. It is always good to have your personal luxury items for use in the backcountry.
Start of an Adventure - Backpacking in Yellowstone
We hit the trail from near the Northeast entrance on our way to the first campsite at Pebble Creek. We got dropped off by our shuttle and hit the trail, which was a nice steep climb from the start. We started off and made our way up the hill stopping along the way for everyone to catch their breath. We also caught beautiful views of Abiathar Peak directly to the south and other beautiful peaks in the Absaroka Mountains.
When we reached the top of our climb for the day there were remnants of snow from our previous winter. The trail was a small stream heading right down the trail towards Pebble Creek. We made our way down pulling out some trekking poles for downhill support. They really help relieve your legs on a downhill. Once we reached the bottom we forded Pebble Creek for the first time, we did another later in the same day. It was not too deep but no one had forded a stream before so we went thru proper stream crossing etiquette. Put on your stream crossing shoes and make sure that your waist and chest straps on your backpack are unbuckled so if you slip your pack will not weigh you down in the stream.
Once we crossed the stream we had a lunch stop and pumped water from Pebble Creek with our water filter. It pushes out high volumes of water fast. Once we were filled up on water we started heading towards our campsite for the night at the base of Bliss Pass. We made our way along the beautiful meadow and weaved in and out of the woods and finally made it to camp. We all found our ideal spots to pitch tents along the creek and boiled some water for our freeze dried meals, which we shared buffet style. After this we hit the hay to rest up for our next days adventure.
We woke up well rested and made our breakfast before breaking camp down. Once we broke camp we took a photo at the campsite pole and headed out and up the pass. Just down the trail we headed across Pebble Creek for our last ford of the trip, it was very shallow, easy and refreshing. We started out across the meadow towards our trail marker, which pushed us into the woods. We were in the woods for a short time and then it opened up. There were many switchbacks and beautiful mountain views with perennial waterfalls coming down from the mountains. We made sure to stay well hydrated and refilled at a stream coming down the mountain.
Day 2 - Up and Over Bliss Pass
After a while we reached the last lag of the upward portion of Bliss Pass. It was very steep and when we got almost to the top the last of the switchbacks were covered with very bad melting snow and mud among the rocks of the volcanic earth flows from 50 million years ago. With some careful footwork all of us made it to the top of Bliss Pass. This was very relieving because we started to hear some thunder around our vicinity. At the top of the pass we were among the trees once again and all of us felt safe.
Once we hit the pass we started making our way down with our houses on our backs. The downhill was quite gradual but the trail was tricky because of how many rocks were in the middle of it. This was where I taught the value of trekking poles and how they can help distribute the weight, creating tow extra appendages. We slowly made our way among the earth flows and wild flowers down towards Slough Creek.
The mosquitoes were insane in the woods above Slough Creek. We had some good bug dope but they were so thick that I was swinging my arms like Donkey Kong and could feel at least 20 of those buggers with each swat. Ahh the joys of getting out there and experiencing the places that not many people get to see. Just as we thought we would never get out of there alive we busted out into the Slough Creek Valley.
Just as we made out way out we noticed some trail crew workers at the patrol cabin. We waved and walked by making our way a short way down the trail to 2S4, our campsite for the evening. We got to camp and started boiling water to rehydrate our freeze-dried meals for dinner. I stayed near the fire and everyone else found spots for their tents. You must always make sure not to leave backpacks unattended because of bears and other creatures.
The Last Day of the AdventureWe got camp set up and made up some dinner and sat around the fire for a bit. Once we were full of food we all started trickling to our tents. I put out the fire completely, swept the campsite and made sure everything was in the bear box. After this I made my way to the tent with a little thinking about the hike tomorrow, 8 miles mostly flat, until the end.
We got up quite early and I had water boiling for coffee and re-hydrating meals. Everyone hung their sleeping bags and tents to dry from the dew that had accumulated overnight to let them dry. Once dry, we packed our houses and other items back into our backpacks for the last leg of the journey.
We made a sweep of our camp as to not leave any items behind and made our way back to the trail. Six miles of the trail is nice and flat but mostly in the open. We cruised nice and easy after all of the trials that had been forced upon us with the opportunity to explore the Yellowstone backcountry. One last push uphill that was very easy in comparison to many we had already endured and then back down to the trailhead.
As we came down from the top of the hill at the end of the trail in the heat of the Yellowstone summer we recollected on how amazing this adventure had been. Exploring for three days and two nights in the northern range of Yellowstone National Park with new friends and adventures on the horizon. This place is amazing in so many ways. With over 1,100 miles of trails to explore there is a lifetime of adventures waiting if you just get off the road.